Monday 2 December 2013

Inseparable (2007)

Director: Nick White
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch and Natalie Press
This film was an official selection at the Filmstock Arizona 2013 round of the revolving Filmstock film festival. Here's an index to my reviews of all selections.
The oldest film to make the scheduling for Filmstock Arizona, this twelve minute short is a star vehicle for Benedict Cumberbatch, who's having a rather amazing year. In between seasons two and three of the critically acclaimed TV series Sherlock, he knocked out half a dozen pictures, only another short, Little Favour, not being immediately notable. He played the villain in Star Trek into Darkness and the high profile role of Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate, along with others in the controversial 12 Years a Slave and the star-studded August: Osage County. He'll finish it off this month by returning to the part of the Necromancer in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, for which he'll also be voicing the titular dragon. To land a short film starring such a major actor is a solid coup for Filmstock Arizona, even if the piece is six years old. It helps that it's a very powerful film, mostly because of Cumberbatch but also because of the script by Matthew James Wilkinson and the contribution of co-star Natalie Press.

To be fair, while Press does astoundingly good work at the end of this film, she's hardly in it otherwise. There are two leading men and they're both Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays opposite himself. First up, he's Joe, who clearly has a lot on his mind as the film begins. We soon discover, neatly and without the need for words, that it's because he's dying. Sure, he's young and he's smart and he has a beautiful wife and son, but what is presumably inoperable brain cancer doesn't care about such trifles, so Joe has little time left to enjoy any of them. At this point, we find that he's also Charlie, as unruly and unkempt as Joe is composed and neat, especially given the circumstances. It's never stated outright, but Charlie is presumably Joe's twin brother, who has fallen on tough times, apparently because of an addiction to gambling on greyhounds. His life is not looking much more promising than Joe's, but there's a way out and a hint in that direction is where this story takes us.

Cumberbatch is as great here as you might expect from his more recent, more high profile work, even though this was done in 2007. It's never easy to play both halves of a pair of identical twins, because we're inevitably confused between them. Cumberbatch nails this so that we always know precisely who we're looking at, whatever the context we're given. Wilkinson's script is deliberately sparse, eschewing unneeded dialogue for expository visuals and a strong sense that we're merely seeing characters at the moment when one story ends and another begins. The most important stories play out in our minds as we ponder the ramifications of what we see and where they're likely to take the characters on the dark side of the closing credits. This stands alone superbly as a short film, but it could easily be expanded in any number of ways to feature length. I'm almost surprised that nobody's done that yet. Maybe it just wouldn't be financially viable now that the leading men, both of him, are so in demand.

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